Over the past few years, organisations have had to quickly change the way their people worked. Hybrid working has since become the norm, so much so that many people looking for work now expect it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that hybrid working arrangements are right for every organisation though.
In this blog we’re going to take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of offering this type of work arrangement, and how to handle getting back in to the office.
Hybrid working in detail
Before we get into the good and bad stuff, let’s take a look at what hybrid working actually means. In a hybrid working model, employees have the flexibility to work part of the time from your office location, and part of the time remotely, usually at home.
Hybrid working and flexible working aren’t the same thing – flexible working is a broader concept and includes other work arrangements like compressed hours and job sharing. Although we’ve focused on hybrid working in this article, the principles also apply to flexible working.
What are the advantages of hybrid working for employers?
There are lots of reasons why hybrid working is good for companies. The most important one is probably that employees who choose where and how they work are almost always happier and more engaged. And that leads to better productivity and a more successful business.
Here are some of the other advantages.
It gives you access to a larger pool of talent: Because employees can work from places other than your office, you can look further afield to find the perfect people for your teams.
It enhances your employee value proposition: Offering hybrid work options can give you the competitive edge when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.
It lowers bills: Having fewer employees on site on any given day will save you money on office space and all the costs that go along with that (like utilities, maintenance and so on).
It makes it easier to adapt if things go wrong: If the worst happens, for example a flood or another pandemic, your business will already be set up to move staff off site quickly. And that means less disruption.
It reduces your environmental impact: Fewer employees commuting to the office every day could potentially lower your organisation’s carbon footprint.
What are the disadvantages of hybrid working for employers?
Of course, hybrid working also presents some challenges.
It reduces face-to-face communication: Hybrid working inevitably means less frequent in-person collaboration. That could affect creativity and how well your teams work together.
Monitoring and supervision can be more difficult: It’s harder to supervise employees who aren’t physically in the office, and check how productive they’re being.
It can make it hard to maintain a strong company culture: If your employees are spread across lots of different locations, it can be tough to build a sense of belonging, and encourage people to live your company’s values.
You might need to invest in more technology: Remote working needs reliable technology to be effective. You’ll also need to be aware of potential cybersecurity threats and data protection.
Employees can feel socially isolated: A lack of regular in-person interactions can have a negative impact on team dynamics and individual wellbeing. Some remote workers also struggle to establish clear boundaries between their work and personal life, which increases the risk of burnout.
What does research say?
Most studies show that allowing workers to spend at least some of their time working from home actually boosts productivity. A 2021 study by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, found that more than two thirds (71%) of employers said that an increase in homeworking has either boosted or made no difference to productivity.
It’s clear that hybrid work has the potential to be good for both employers and employees alike. But it has to be carefully and thoughtfully planned, and backed up by good communication, supportive policies and up-to-date technology to be effective. Of course, it’s never going to work for every type of commercial business either – jobs that involve computer-based tasks, meetings and collaborative projects lend themselves well to remote work, while those that need a physical presence or involve lots of hands-on activities obviously don’t.
How can you encourage staff back into the office?
If you’ve decided you want your people in the office more, whether that’s just a day or so extra a week or back to full-time, you’ll need to take a strategic approach to make this work. Here are a few ideas to help make sure your employees are as enthusiastic about this as you are.
Create a safe and comfortable workspace
You might need to spend some money making your office space a comfortable and appealing place to be. Remember to take into account your employees’ wellbeing when you do that. Free snacks or lunches can have a positive effect on wellbeing, for example, as can adding more breakout spaces – these can also boost creativity.
Clearly communicate why you want people back in the office
Emphasise the benefits of increasing their hours on site for both the company and your employees. You should also try to be transparent about the reasons behind your decision. Finally, you’ll need to be ready to address any concerns your people might have about coming back on site (like commuting challenges and work-life balance).
You could even get your people involved in discussions about returning to the office right at the start. For example, you could ask them for their opinions on policies or office layouts.
Help people manage the transition
It can be daunting to suddenly come back in to an office environment. Offering support services like mental health resources (for example) can really help people make the leap from home to office working again.
Do some team building and social activities
Getting people face to face in a more relaxed environment can be a great way to get them more enthusiastic about being back on site. Try running some team meetings, team-building activities, workshops or social events to strengthen team bonds and get them excited about being together again.
Can we help?
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